in the studio with virginia sin

May 17, 2017

There is a precision and order that prevails in Virginia Sin’s Brooklyn studio space: textile swatches are pinned to a bulletin board in careful spectrums of saturation, a hanging rack holds tidily folded blankets, and woven pillowcases are neatly arranged on the limited counter space. A flame in a handmade porcelain candle holder burns steadily, and in case we hadn’t already instantly relaxed, a large poster on the wall reminds us to Be Calm. Although her space might suggest otherwise, Virginia rejects the idea that she’s perfectionistic. “I think when you are a perfectionist, you overthink things and don’t go with your gut,” she says. “I try to believe in what feels right, what’s intuitive.”

Born to Chinese parents in Southern California, Virginia recalls a childhood spent pursuing her passion for art. After exploring painting and ceramics during her teenage years, she enrolled in a graphic design program at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, but it was a college work-study at INDEX in Copenhagen that she credits as the formative experience in her design journey. There, inspired by the intentional design of everything from the cafes and homes to the products within them, she began to appreciate the art of the aesthetically-considered home.

Though she went on to work in corporate advertising after graduation, her affection for product design remained steadfast. Spending nights and weekends taking ceramics classes, Virginia entered her porcelain replica of a disposable paper plate into a Design Within Reach contest, and the world took notice. “After that, Design Sponge called and wrote about it, then a store called, wanting to carry them,” she recalls. “All of a sudden I was like, ‘Uh oh! I think I need to get a studio!’” A few years later, she moved into the well-loved space you see here.

A small room in the studio is dedicated to ceramic work, and the rest of the space is for developing and prototyping new products to add to the core collection, like tea towels dyed with wine (jokes the designer: “I love the concept of spilling wine but not feeling bad about it”). A new line of woven blankets and pillows are the product of Virginia’s forays into crochet and arm knitting, a process by which you use your wrists instead of needles. “Every product stems from a concept,” she tells us. “I ask myself: ‘What kind of towel do I want? Why don’t I use the ones I have? How can I solve that in the ones I make?’” From there, she works with a team in Wyoming who spin hemp, cotton, alpaca, and merino wool, and two weaving partners (one located in North Carolina and one in Rhode Island) to craft the products. “I design it all, but I don’t make it all,” she says. “I really like working with other artisans and building relationships with them.”

Referring to herself as a “stickler for integrity,” Virginia has admirable standards when it comes to running her business. She insists on seeing various weaves for each textile piece she conceives, uses high-quality natural dyes instead of synthetics, and has her tags handmade from recycled office supplies. Another thing we love about her? She pays her artisans higher-than-average wages. “Some people laugh at me, but this is the way that my business feels right,” she says unapologetically. But perhaps the strongest driving factor behind Sin Studio is Virginia’s belief that every day is worthy of small luxuries. Her tagline is “Lived In”—indicative of her endeavor to make products “beautiful but functional.” Considering her reach (her products appear everywhere from her beloved customers’ homes to museum exhibits) it’s clear that she is fulfilling that dream. The warm reception of her work notwithstanding, Virginia is clear on one thing: that she’s found her life purpose. “I love coming up with ideas and seeing them become tangible objects,” she says. “This is what I’m supposed to do.”

Writer: Anna Patterson
Photographers: Megan Boltz + Abby Maker

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